Gov. Kenny Guinn served notice Thursday he won't accept a $1.14 billion budget request from the university system.
"I was both displeased and disappointed to hear that the Nevada Board of Regents was considering sending a $1.14 billion budget to me and, ultimately, to the Legislature," said Guinn in a sharp letter to Interim Chancellor Jane Nichols.
He said that would be 28 percent more than the current budget - despite his admonition the state is facing tough times ahead and that agencies should ask for no more than they received for this two-year spending cycle.
"I told the financial analysts of all state agencies at our budget seminar in January I expect agencies to submit flat budgets - with no increases over current levels of overall spending for that agency," he said in the letter.
"An agency that submits enhancement requests without showing how those requests will be funded through savings or efficiencies will be denied approval of that request," he said.
Regents Chairwoman Jill Derby was unavailable for comment, but Nichols said the governor appears to have misinterpreted what's happening at the university system. She said that total isn't the university system's budget request but a "preliminary" total of all the different campus requests.
She said the Board of Regents will work out a final budget request in June and that she believes the system will be able to satisfy Guinn's request.
"My understanding is the governor certainly wants to fund our growth but first wants to see what we would do with what we have," said Nichols. "So much of this is format, not substance. I don't think the governor is saying by any means that he's not going to fund growth or new programs, but he is saying before we do that we have to look carefully at what we have."
She said the University and Community College System of Nevada plans to do just that.
Guinn's letter said he had to trim nearly $1 billion from agency requests before the 1999 Legislature.
"I do not intend to, this year, allow a similar waste of time and effort on the part of the agencies themselves, my office or the budget division," he said.
Guinn said after status-quo requests from all agencies are reviewed, his office and lawmakers will consider priority requests for budget increases from available funds.
But he made it clear he doesn't plan to allow even the semi-independent university system to ask for a huge increase in funding.
"I will not accept nor will I include the UCCSN proposals in my executive budget is substantial revisions reflecting this directive are not made," the letter warns.
Nichols said the system will need more money to accommodate the rising number of students attending every campus in the state. Growth rates have been especially high at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Community College of Southern Nevada, but even the University of Nevada, Reno exceeded projections this past year.
But she said the system will present its needs in a format that meets the governor's standards and, she hopes, that he can support.